KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A warm, windless dawn greeted the final dozen anglers of the 2007 Elite Series this morning as Day Four of the Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance got under way. The Lake Toho/Kissimmee complex has been stingy with its bites this week, but enough central Florida giants have been caught to make at least one of the primary contenders a little nervous.
"All three days have depended on one key bite and I think that'll be the case today. You've got to watch those guys flipping under the mats," said second place Ben Matsubu (41-3), who is just one pound behind Brent Chapman.
The weather forecast calls for increasing winds and lower temperatures today as a weak cold front makes its way into the Orlando area. Most anglers were taking a wary approach to that forecast as they hydrated themselves and made last minute preparations for the final day of competition in the 2007 season.
Chapman talked about a Day Four strategy that sounds more akin to that of a beat-up city reservoir than one of the best big fish lakes in the country. But that's what has gotten him the lead and he sees no reason to change now.
"I'm just going to go out and try to catch five fish first. Then I'm going to worry about size," said Chapman. "That's been the strategy all week and each day I've been fortunate enough to get several good fish while I'm doing that."
Chapman is working an area — the one only he's got — about two acres in size, using a combination of drop shotting the edges of vegetation and then punching the thick mats later in the day for quality bites. He shared the water with Alton Jones yesterday and the two anglers talked throughout the day. But they didn't compare notes last night as Chapman indicated that he knows all he needs to know.
"He didn't really have a sweet spot and neither did I. It's a good area, I think it can replenish itself," said Chapman.
Matsubu will also be banking on one spot, only his is significantly smaller than Chapman's. It's an area he gave to Takahiro Omori in his effort to make the Classic and turned out to be much more than the limit-producer he had anticipated.
"I thought there were just small fish in there, but Tak really did well in there," said Matsubu. "It's a spot I'm gonna do or die in today."
The sweetest of sweet spots is a 30-40 yard point of grass that extends off of a thick mat. Matsubu says he worked over the area hard on Saturday, but hopes the fish in the general area — Bradley Hallman and Aaron Martens have also been fishing an area around 200 yards away — to be on the move.
"I'm hoping those fish will cruise on over. They've been really active in the morning with the crankbait on top of the grass," said Matsubu.
Once the morning activity wanes, Matsubu is going to a Carolina rig. One advantage he has is not having a co-angler in the boat. Between Mary Delgado on Friday and Harry Potts on Saturday, back-of-the-boaters have taken nearly 30 pounds of fish to the scales from Matsubu's boat. He did, however, make a keen observation yesterday as Potts, who is a good friend and frequent draw the past several years, put the co-angler title out of reach.
"Harry might have clued me in on something yesterday. He started throwing out in open water, away from the grass completely," said Matsubu. "I told him 'There's no grass out there, dude'. And he just kept hammering 'em. I think it's a shell bed."
"I've spent three days there so I know what to expect. It's either going to happen or it's not."